Victoria - The British Columbia government has allocated $12 million to support First Nations throughout B.C. with investigative work at former residential school sites, as well as cultural and wellness supports for communities and members experiencing trauma from residential school site findings.
"Finding evidence of a burial site for children who attended the former Kamloops residential school was a stark reminder of the atrocities of the Canadian residential school system and how those continue to be felt to this day," said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. "Many other sites throughout the province and country are still the source of unanswered questions and terrible pain. It is imperative that we take our lead from First Nations as we move forward, and we will continue to act quickly and in a co-ordinated way to support their needs."
The Province has been co-ordinating closely with Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, Indigenous Services Canada and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) to support First Nation-led responses. This new provincial funding will support First Nations with community-led strategies to identify, investigate, document, maintain, protect and/or commemorate residential school sites where children's remains may be located, as well as to provide community wellness, cultural and mental health supports.
The provincial and federal governments and the FNHA are working with a number of First Nations that have requested assistance to determine needs and next steps for searches at other sites, removing structures, providing resources for healing and identifying other supports. These include Tk'emlúps te Secwe pemc and Daylu Dena Council.
"The provision of these funds for immediate use by First Nations in the aftermath of discoveries of remains at residential school sites is an important first step in supporting the resiliency and healing of B.C. First Nations people," said Charlene Belleau, chair, First Nations Health Council. "We acknowledge our B.C. government partners for this effort, as our communities honour the spirit of these lost children."
In light of the pain that recent residential school findings are having on the health and well- being of Indigenous peoples, there is an identified need for mental, emotional and cultural supports for survivors, intergenerational survivors and communities as the most urgent priority.
"We are pleased to see the B.C. government's commitment to supporting First Nations in this work," said Richard Jock, CEO, FNHA. "Acknowledging trauma and the damaging and lasting impacts residential school have on First Nations people, their families and communities is a first step. The ongoing provision of culturally safe healing and wellness supports for B.C. First Nations must be communities-driven and Nation-based. This must be the primary focus going forward."
The provincial and federal governments and the FNHA will work together to co-ordinate mental health and cultural supports for Indigenous peoples experiencing distress or trauma as a result of findings at residential schools. The new provincial funding will support healing for survivors and families in both Indigenous communities and urban areas.
More information on how First Nations can access the provincial funding for site investigation work and cultural and wellness supports will be shared in the coming days.
Support services for residential school survivors in B.C.:
Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
First Nations Health Authority firstname.lastname@example.org